A lesson on women ordination to the presbyterate by one who was there in 1998.

There is only one word for women ordination, and that is: Heterodoxy!

Screen Shot 2018-06-16 at 06.02.28“In calling only men as his Apostles, Christ acted in a completely free and sovereign manner.  In doing so, he exercised the same freedom with which, in all his behavior, he emphasized the dignity and the vocation of women, without conforming to the prevailing customs and to the traditions sanctioned by the legislation of the time”. Mulieris dignitatem.  St. John Paul II

The disruption, confusion, antipathy this subject brings to the Universal Church seems to be unending.  As my mother used to say to my sister “don’t give up until you get exactly what you want and on your own terms.”  As a young lad this used to make me feel as if they both had some kind of an unspoken and secret code.  It also made me feel sorry for my father, who would then either storm off after hours of arguments or relent.  But then my mother bless her soul was Evangelisch-Lutherisch and I honestly feel that she remained so even after her conversion to Catholicism and thus teaching liberal attitudes to my sister.

Writing this gives me no joy at all.  In fact it saddens me greatly.  In this article I share what Christ’s idea for the Church is, what the scriptures say, what the Apostles have already expounded on, what the Church Fathers have discussed, deliberated and taught and written about, what the church has taught and teaches still.  These are not opinions that I have formulated myself, they come from personal experiences and what I have been taught at catholic school, university and seminary. 

Lets get to the point; I was actually part of the ordination team that ordained Mother Frances some years back and I was duly excommunicated (I had been warned) for

Ordination of Mother Fr. Frances 1998

not listening to the advice of the Apostolic Nuncio’s Office in Dublin who wrote several times in an attempt to desist me.  My cousin in Rome and my family and friends had asked me to rethink seriously.  And the 7th Earl of Longford Francis Pakenham a long time friend through my prison chaplaincy days asked me to reconsider, but to no avail.  Yet my then Diocesan insisted that all would be  well, to relax and not worry.  It’s something new so will attract attention.  So for blind obedience to my Bishop and my sheer unwavering stubbornness I was excommunicated (I even received a lovely certificate from Rome to tell me so) the excommunication lasted until January 2005 (5 years, 1 month, and 21 days).  And I can tell you, though it might seem mediaeval and most people would think nothing of it, to me it made an immense impact that filled me with pain, sorrow and shame.  It was only through the intercession of Cardinal Cathal Daily, the Abbot of Buckfast, the Archbishop, the Vicar General, even a Church of England Bishop very Kindly got involved (he asked me not to identify him) and an extremely lengthy 2 day interview in Rome, 38 letters later that Saint John Paul II saw fit to forgive his wayward sheep and welcome me back into the fold.   I genuinely  regret my actions, I’m still ashamed of my actions today.  I regret them because of the confusion it caused the laity and other clergy, the misrepresentations by the media were terrible, I even read an interview of me in a South American newspaper that I’d never given.  The damaged that was caused not only effected the parish and the  diocese but also the people in Ireland and other places around the world.  My regrets began to surface at the pseudo-ordination itself.  I knew it would not be Sacramentally valid.  I felt that it was wrong.  All I could think was run.  But I could not walk out mid service as I was too much of a coward.

Irenaeus writes as follows:

[The dispensation of God which gives the Holy Spirit] has been entrusted to the Church, as breath was to the first created man, for this purpose, that all the members receiving it may be vivified and the communion with Christ has been distributed throughout it, that is, the Holy Spirit . . .. “For in the Church,” it is said, “God has set apostles, prophets, teachers,” and all the other means through which the Spirit works; of which all those are not partakers who do not join themselves to the Church, but defraud themselves of life through their perverse opinions and infamous behaviour. For where the Church is, here is the Holy Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace; but the Spirit is truth.

Scripture does not say that a woman should not be ordained or that she should not be a priest or a bishop. It does say she should be submissive and that she should be silent in the church and should not teach or have authority over a man.  Whether she does these things as the holder of a specific office or not is irrelevant. The questions is whether a woman can serve the whole congregation in the position of priest or bishop without acting in a way which would place her in violation of the scriptural commands which we must obey.

Although the priest is to labor in his congregation with the attitude of a willing servant, it is very clear in Scripture that he is also to be regarded as an authoritative leader of the congregation. “Obey” (πείθεσθε) your leaders and submit to their authority (ὑπείκατε). They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.” (Hebrews 13:17). “These then are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority” (ἐπιταγῆς) (Titus 2:15). The very nature of the pastoral office is to be an “overseer” (ἐπίστκοπος).

It should be very clear that the principles that man is to be the head, that woman should submit, and that woman is not to have authority over man forbid a woman to exercise the office of pastoral leadership over the whole congregation. However, many of the functions performed by a priest may be performed by women under certain extreme circumstances.

If “ordination” simply meant being installed into the ministry of the church, there would be no theological reason why we could not “ordain” women teachers, who are considered to be members of the ministry of our church. However, such a practice could be very confusing since it would be contrary to the traditional understanding of the term ordination. Although the historical evidence is not completely clear, it seems that in the early church there was a divergence of practice concerning the “ordination” of such women ministers as deaconesses. In some places ordination of women was explicitly denied.  In other places, especially in the East, an “ordination” of sorts (that is, a laying on of hands) was practiced, but it was kept distinct from the ordination to the pastoral ministry.  Women, of course, can share the Word with others privately as part of the priesthood of all believers.  Women can share the Word as called evangelists with other women.  In some cultures, such as many Islamic cultures which practice strict separation of the sexes, it may be necessary for most or all of the catechetical instruction of women to be done by women.  In penetrating a culture with strict separation of the sexes in worship it might be necessary for a time to have a separate women’s service which was conducted entirely by women. Women can, of course, lead the devotions for women’s groups.

Since baptism is normally administered by the deacon or priest, baptism is not  performed by women.

The Sacrament of Mass likewise is normally administered by the priest of a parish or congregation.  Therefore it would not be administered by a woman. It is conceivable that it might be administered by a woman in a congregation which consisted entirely of women, such as a convent, and some parishes do have women as Eucharistic ministers.

Leadership of the worship service will rest in the hands of the priest or in his absence, of another male called by the diocese to lead. Preaching in a congregation certainly is to be authoritative teaching (Titus 2:15) and therefore should not be done by a woman. Such preaching would also conflict with the command of silence set forth in 1 Corinthians 14, where the situation which called forth this application of the principle seems to be parallel to the public preaching in our services.

More difficult questions arise concerning areas of auxiliary service in public worship.

At least in recent times-there has been little question about women singing in church choirs whether in group or solo roles. Choir music is not independent or authoritative teaching at the discretion of the singer. It is (or should be) selected by or in consultation with the parish priest or his curate to advance the theme of the service. Women choir directors have been widely accepted among us, but this issue is not so clear cut. A woman could certainly lead the choir in a way which was domineering or authoritative, but the office could also be understood and practiced as assisting in the musical performance of the congregation much as an organist does. In such circumstances the pastor still has overall responsibility for doctrinal soundness and appropriateness of the music of the service.

Most congregations have traditionally used male ushers for services, but there are no theological reasons why women cannot serve as ushers and greeters since the function of these offices is to assist worshippers, not to exercise any kind of authority.

Most congregations normally have the deacon or priest read the scripture lessons as part of their role of leading the worship service. There is though no consistency in this, in so far as parishes permit children to present portions of Scripture in special services. If we accept this practice and the presentation of musical solos by women, it would be inconsistent to claim that reading Scripture inherently and inevitably involves authoritative teaching. In churches which use lay lectors, the lectors read not only the lessons, but also some of the prayers such as the litany. Although the Catholic Church does not ordain women, many parishes allow women lectors to read the Scriptures and the general prayers.  Reading is seen as a subordinate assisting role which does not involve authoritative teaching. The priest “presides” over the service and normally reads the gospel as an expression of this leadership. 

Nevertheless, many parishes refuse to adopt the practice of having women as lectors. It would be unwise from a practical point of view. It would be a source of confusion and offence, especially since some people have used and are using such roles for women as stepping stones toward the assumption of the presbyteral ministry by women. Such a practice would also be doubtful from a theological point of view. It is difficult to reconcile the role of reading and leading the assembly in prayer with the spirit of the command of silence in 1 Corinthians 14, which excludes women even from asking questions. Furthermore, 1 Timothy 2, specifies that “men (ἄνδρας) everywhere are to lift up holy hands in prayer.” It does this in the same context which says, “God wants all people (ἀνθρώπους) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” and that “a woman should learn in quietness and full submission.”  It is often asserted that 1 Corinthians 11, contradicts this position since it tells women to have their heads covered when they lead in prayer.  However, 1 Corinthians 11 is vague about the specific circumstances involved. It is not clear that leadership of the public congregational worship is involved in the praying and prophesying spoken of in 1 Corinthians 11. Individual personal prayers in a setting somewhat similar to a prayer meeting may be involved, or perhaps the mutual admonition and teaching that is done in joint hymns and prayers (Col 3:16). Since the circumstances of 1 Corinthians 11 are unclear, and the prohibitions in 1 Corinthians 14, and 1 Timothy 2, refer to the leading of the public worship, it is dubious hermeneutics to use 1 Corinthians 11, to overrule 1 Corinthians 14, and 1 Timothy 2.  This leads me to conclude from a theological point of view that the use of women lectors would be doubtful and a danger to many consciences and that from a practical point of view it would be very confusing and offensive under present circumstances.  The practice should therefore be avoided.  

It is clear that the Lord’s Supper should be administered by the priest  who is authorised by the faculties given to the individual by the diocesan to administer the Sacraments under his authority.  But can a distinction be made between administration and distribution? The Church uses a number of lay altar assistants at several stations to speed the distribution of the elements to the entire congregation.  In some parishes women can distribute both the wine and the host. In view of the roles assigned and the need for faculties to be given to perform the Sacraments validly within a diocese and therefore prevent errors and confusion I would argue that the deacon or priest must retain distribution of the bread since it is at this point that the authority to exclude someone from the Lord’s Supper must be exercised, but that women could distribute the wine since admission has already been determined by this point.  If the form of celebrating the Mass among us was such that the distribution of the elements was understood as simply assisting all of the congregation in receiving the elements (sort of the opposite function of gathering the offering) and if some other means of upholding the scriptural principles of closed communion was in place, it would be possible to defend the position that there are no theological grounds for excluding women from assisting with the distribution. For example, in the ancient church women were sometimes permitted to carry the consecrated elements to the sick. This was considered to be a form of distribution of the elements which enabled home-bound members of the parish to participate in the sacrament along with the congregation.  Although there are some precedents for the practice in the history of the church, I do not believe women altar assistants should be in Catholic Churches under present circumstances without causing problems or offence.  In fact in the Archdiocese of Plymouth [and many other UK dioceses) several members of the congregation point blank refused to accept female altar servers and Eucharistic ministers.  The same happened in Italy, Spain and Mexico.

1 Timothy 2, clearly states that a woman should not teach a man in the church.  I see no way of evading the conclusion that a woman should not teach the adult catechetical and bible classes in which men are involved, and that there should be no exceptions.  Biblical teaching is not just leading a discussion in which all the participants throw in their own opinions, and the teacher moderates and throws in an opinion once in awhile. Biblical teaching is an “authoritative proclamation of truths from God’s Word.”

This fact would further raise questions about women counselling men in many areas of scriptural pastoral care, which by definition is not simply a matter of non-directive listening or advising, but which is authoritative teaching which may ultimately result in church discipline.

We consider secondary school students to be minors who are still under the authority of their father and mother, so few questions or problems should arise over this issue at the secondary school level. The question is not so simple at the college level when we consider the students to be men and women with adult responsibilities.  Many catholic colleges therefore avoid placing women in positions which would make them responsible for disciplining adult male students or for determining whether they are qualified to serve in the public ministry of the church.  Care should be taken in such areas as the assignment of supervisors for practice teaching.  The same concerns should apply to giving women teachers, deans, chairmen or department heads supervisory authority over male teachers at any level.  As proof we have many catholic educational institutions that have found themselves in hot water and have faced legal redress in the past.

Our system of church hierarchy is the authoritative governing body of the universal church. Among its more important responsibilities are the calling and removal of priests and teachers, calling the leaders of the diocese, and the acceptance and removal of members.  Participation in this and other governing boards in the church and its organisations should be limited to the hierarchy who are able to properly exercise authority over others.  A few dioceses have attempted to evade this reality by suggesting the board of the diocese become an advisory body.  This I’m afraid is “a cure worse than the disease” since such a redefinition of the nature the churches authority and the role of the parish councils would amount to the establishment of superfluous extra-hierarchical church polity, I am of the opinion that once the hierarchy have made a decision and promulgated that decision then there is no further requirement for further discussion. The same would be true if a Church Council were made anything less than the authoritative governing body of the Church Council.

Participation in governing bodies includes both voting and joining in debate. In most cases, the purpose of voting in and other governing bodies of the Church is not to express personal preferences or needs, but to establish authoritative policy for the Church. In

Women Bishops?  Not Sacramentally valid.

Christian decision making which aims at best meeting the needs of all of the members of the congregation, including the minority, gathering and assessing the needs and desires of the members is done prior to the decision-making, the church often invited outside periti of both men and women where their opinions are heard and acted upon.  The public domain or the media are not the right forum for such discussions as the media be they of the Church or lay do not have the full grasp of what the concerning topics really are.  They have a tendency to side on the politically correct platform (which always seems to be contrary to Church teachings, or the feminist view “where the tendency leans toward ‘you are denying us our rights” The responsible governing bodies make decisions on the basis of an informed concern for the universal Church, and not merely on the basis of personal preferences. The Congregations often use quite democratic and professional mechanisms such as questionnaires, discussions, or informative meetings to obtain input about the needs and desires of all concerned.  The purpose of debate is to sway opinion, to challenge and refute those in authority against those who hold opposing views. A person cannot truly and freely participate in debate without challenging and contradicting the teachings of the Church and of other parties legitimately involved in the debate. It is very difficult to see how women can do this and yet claim to adhere and be in harmony with Paul’s commands in 1 Corinthians 14; that women are to be silent and not to ask questions in the meeting of the church. There Paul seems to be applying the principle in a situation parallel to the exchange of views which takes place in decision-making processes in Diocesan or meetings.  Debate very often involves only one thing, that is to challenge and assert authoritative viewpoints.  Even questions asked during debate are implied challenges to the authority of the Church.  Submission to headship,  (and this should not be difficult as we do this every day of our lives) not teaching men, being silent and not asking questions are hardly compatible with free participation in debate.

There is no scriptural reason why women cannot be present at Diocesan councils or parish meetings, in fact in the past their presence has been of extreme value, but as a regular practice?  No.  It has been proven that this often causes more problems than it solves.  It happened in the Anglican feminist movement, debating for women to be allowed into the diaconate, then the presbyterate, followed by the episcopate, and what happened? Church attendance declined, a gender neuter God began to appear in the Lutheran church, which is attempting to convince everyone with their very public arguments and teachings that the Blessed Virgin Mary was impregnated by a woman or neuter God and not God the Father.  What utter nonsense.

To be present at such meetings, but to be unable to debate or vote tends to increase frustration and hurt feelings rather than to decrease them. It is therefore not wise to promote this practice as a way of deflecting causing offence and anger on the part of women who feel excluded from the government of the church.  Unfortunately the second Vatican Council flung the doors wide open by not reigning in or correcting the ultra liberal periti that infiltrated the Council.

We seem to have made considerable progress toward reaching agreement among ourselves concerning the biblical principles governing the roles of men and women in the church.  Although this work was completed an hour after reading our Bishop Primus’s posting on facebook, I felt that for once instead of remaining tacit on the subject, that I would use scripture, the Apostles teachings, the Church Fathers, Tradition, my seminary and university training to good use and express what I have been taught, have learned and know and hold to be true.  

At this time in the Church we should be achieving harmony concerning the application of the the churches taught principles, mending the divisions in the church, addressing the

The fake Pope Joan created by Protestant Reformers.

wrongs that the Church has allowed to continue whilst keeping silent, addressing world poverty, hunger, lack of water, shelter, clothing.  Society has become more and more secular whilst religion has been placed on the back burner.  These are the things that are important today, here and now!  We should therefore not be preparing and arguing about the next woman Bishop, Cardinal or Pope.  Because that would be next on the agenda.

Furthermore a decision was made… several times in fact in answer to this question.  So the point in history during which special attention was given to the question on the ordination of women has come and gone.  

  1. Pope Gelasius I (died 19 November 496) condemned the practice of women officiating at altars; 
  2. There is also the church of Santa Praxedis, where “Theodora Episcopa” — episcopa is the word for “bishop” in the feminine form — appears in an image with two female saints and Mary.  Ecclesiastical tradition explains that Theodora was mother of Pope Paschal I, who built the church in her honour and graced her with the honorary title of Episcopa due to her being the mother of a Pope.  
  3. Pope Zachary also condemned the practice of allowing women to serve at the altar.
  4. In 1976, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the Declaration on the Question of the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood which taught that for doctrinal, theological, and historical reasons, the Church “does not consider herself authorised to admit women to priestly ordination.” The reasons given were the Church’s determination to remain faithful to its constant tradition, its fidelity to Christ’s will, and the iconic value of male representation due to the “sacramental nature” of the priesthood. 
  5. In April 1976, the Pontifical Biblical Commission released a study examining the exclusion of women from the ministerial priesthood from a biblical perspective: “The masculine character of the hierarchical order which has structured the church since its beginning … seems attested to by scripture in an undeniable way.” “As a matter of fact, we see in the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles that the first [Christian] communities were always directed by men exercising the apostolic power.”  
  6. In 1994, Pope John Paul II declared in his letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, stating: “Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance…I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”  
  7. In 1995, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explained that  Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, though “itself not infallible, witnesses to the infallibility of the teaching of a doctrine already possessed by the Church. … This doctrine belongs to the deposit of the faith of the Church.”  Pope Paul VI, quoted by Pope John Paul II in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, wrote, “The Church holds that it is not admissible to ordain women to the priesthood, for very fundamental reasons. These reasons include: the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men; the constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; and her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God’s plan for his Church.”  Pope John Paul II did not mention the question of ordination of women to the diaconate in this document, and reintroducing women to the ordained diaconate was expressly left aside in Declaration on the Question of the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood.
  8. Concerning the “constant practice of the Church“, in antiquity the Church Fathers, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Epiphanius, John Chrysostom, and Augustine all wrote that the priestly ordination of women was impossible. 
  9. The Council of Laodicea prohibited ordaining women to the Presbyterate.
  10. In the period between the Reformation and the Second Vatican Council, mainstream theologians continued to oppose the priestly ordination of women.
  11. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued and published on May 29, 2008, in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, a decree signed by Cardinal William Levada, on the existing ban on women priests by asserting that women “priests” and the bishops who ordain them would be automatically excommunicated “latae sententiae“.
  12. Pope Francis said “that door is closed” regarding women’s priestly ordination, affirming the teachings of his two predecessors, Saint Pope John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. He expanded on this in a November 2016 informal statement on the return flight from his papal visit to Sweden to commemorate the Reformation,: “On the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the final word is clear, it was said by St. John Paul II and this remains.” Pope Francis added that women are very important to the Church, specifically from a “Marian dimension. In Catholic ecclesiology there are two dimensions to think about,” he said. “The Petrine dimension, which is from the Apostle Peter, and the Apostolic College, which is the pastoral activity of the bishops, as well as the Marian dimension, which is the feminine dimension of the Church.” The Church is depicted as the bride of Christ, as a woman.  Pope Francis has authorised a commission to see if women could be made deaconesses.

Who am I therefore, to argue against these enlightened people? 

In conclusion: The biblical principles were given in order to be applied. We cannot be satisfied to come to agreement on the principles, but then being negligent or indifferent in applying them. 

images 20.31.26
A triumph for feminism? or an Ordination which requires a humble heart?

I ask my sisters who seek the priesthood to carefully and prayerfully consider what they are doing.   Is it a victory for feminism that you are seeking? because the photographs seem to imply just that.  We see that the women being ordained (in the photograph) seem to have more more of a triumphalist attitude than the humbleness required for the office that has just been invalidly bestowed upon them. 

Let me therefore close this lengthy reply by using the Apostle Paul to the Romans 16:1-4; commend — Rather, recommend; unto you — That is, To your love and assistance; Phebe our sister — The bearer of this letter; a servant — Or deaconess, as the Greek word signifies; of the church at Cenchrea — Which was a church distant from that at Corinth.  This place, being situated on the Saronic gulf, was about seventy furlongs, near nine miles, distant from that city; therefore those Christians that lived there could not with convenience, at least generally, assemble with such as resided at Corinth. In the apostolic age, some grave and pious women were appointed deaconesses in every church; and it was their office, not to teach publicly, but  to visit the sick, the women in particular, and to minister to them both in their temporal and spiritual necessities.  The apostle calls Phebe his sister, because she was a true Christian, a genuine believer in our Lord Jesus, and consequently a child and heir of God, and joint heir with Christ. For the appellations of brother and sister, which the disciples gave to one another in the first age, were founded on their being all the children of God by faith, consequently the brethren and sisters of Christ, who acknowledged the relation by publicly declaring, Matthew 12:50, Whosoever shall do the will of my Father, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. That ye receive her — Entertain her, and treat her with affection; in the Lord — For the Lord Christ’s sake, and in regard to her relation to him, our common Saviour; as becometh saints — According to the duty which Christians owe one toward another, and as it is proper they should act who profess to be saints, separated from the world to the honour of Christ’s name; and that ye assist her — With counsel, and every necessary aid; in whatsoever business she hath need of you — This implies, that she had come to Rome on business of importance; perhaps to seek the payment of a debt owing to her by some of the inhabitants of Rome, or to complain of undue exactions by some of the emperor’s officers in the province.  For she hath been a succourer of many — Probably supplying their wants, if not also entertaining them at her house.  The word προστατις properly signifies a patron, a name which the Romans gave to persons who assisted with their advice and interest those who were connected with them as clients.  Therefore, as Phebe had this name given her, it is reasonable to believe that she was a person of considerable wealth and influence.  Or, we may at the very least suppose the name was given her on account of the offices she performed to many as a deaconess.  

The apostle’s direction implies, that all the faithful ought to be particularly attentive in giving assistance and relief to those who have been remarkable for assisting and relieving others. In Romans 16:1-16, Paul recommends Phebe to the Christians at Rome. It becomes Christians to help one another in their affairs, especially strangers; we know not what help we may need ourselves.  Paul asks help for one that had been helpful to many; he that watereth shall be watered also himself. Though the care of all the churches came upon him daily, yet he could remember many persons, and send salutations to each, with particular characters of them, and express concern for them. Lest any should feel themselves hurt, as if Paul had forgotten them, he sends his remembrances to the rest, as brethren and saints, though not named.  He adds, in the close, a general salutation to them all, in the name of the churches of Christ.

I commend – It was common then, as now, to bear letters of introduction to strangers, commending the person thus introduced to the favourable regards and attentions of those to whom the letters were addressed; 2 Corinthians 3:1; Acts 18:27. This Epistle, with the apostle’s commendation, was designed thus to introduce its bearer to the Roman Christians. The mention of Phebe in this manner leaves it beyond a doubt that she was either the bearer of this Epistle, or accompanied those who bore it to Rome.

Our sister – A member of the Christian church.  Which is a servant – Greek, “Who is a deaconess.” It is clear from the New Testament that there was an order of women in the church known as “deaconesses.”  Reference is made to a class of females whose duty it was to “teach” other females, and to take the general superintendence of that part of the church, in various places in the New Testament; and their existence is expressly affirmed in early ecclesiastical history. They appear to have been commonly aged and experienced widows, sustaining fair reputation, and suited to guide and instruct those who were young and inexperienced; compare 1 Timothy 5:3, 1 Timothy 5:9-11; Titus 2:4. The Apostolical Constitutions, book iii. states, “Ordain a deaconess who is faithful and holy, for the ministries toward the women.”  Pliny in his celebrated letter to Trajan, says, when speaking of the efforts which he made to obtain information respecting the opinions and practices of Christians, “I deemed it necessary to put two maidservants who are called “ministrae” (that is “deaconesses”) to the torture, in order to ascertain what is the truth.” The reasons of their appointment among the Gentiles were these:

    1. The females were usually separate from the men. They were kept secluded, for the most part, and not permitted to mingle in society with men as is the custom now.
    2. It became necessary, therefore, to appoint aged and experienced females to instruct the young, to visit the sick, to provide for them, and to perform for them the services which male deacons performed for the whole church. It is evident, however, that they were confined to these offices, and that they were never regarded as an order of ministers, or suffered “to preach” to congregations1 Timothy 2:12; 1 Corinthians 14:34.

There is only one word for women ordination, and that is: Heterodoxy!

I am your brother in Christ.

Fr. Ugo-Maria ESB (csr)

Friday, 15 June 2018


The ascension which we celebrate on May 12 this year, calculates as forty days after Easter and concludes the visible permanence of God amongst men.  It is a prelude to Pentecost and marks the beginning of the Church’s history.  This episode in history is described by the Gospels of S. Mark and S. Luke and in the Acts of the  Apostles.  Until 1977 in Italy it was also a public holiday.

Thwe Ascencion of Christ by Dosso Dossi.jpeg
The Ascension, by Dosso Dossi, 16th century.

The ascension which we celebrate on May 12 this year, calculates as forty days after Easter and concludes the visible permanence of God amongst men.  It is a prelude to Pentecost and marks the beginning of the Church’s history.  This episode in history is described by the Gospels of S. Mark and S. Luke and in the Acts of the  Apostles.  Until 1977 in Italy it was also a public holiday.

With the solemnity of the Ascension of Jesus to Heaven ends the earthly life of Jesus who with his body, in the presence of the apostles, physically unites himself to the Father, and not to reappear on Earth until his Second Coming παρουσία Parusìa (arrival, coming, presence) for the Final judgement. This festival is very old and is attested as early as the fourth century. For the Catholic Church the Ascension is normally calculated as 40 days after Easter, that is, the Thursday of the sixth week of Easter time, that is, the one following the sixth Sunday of Easter.  In the  Symbolum Apostolicum the Apostles’ Creed we hear it mentioned by these words: “On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead..”

In the Orthodox Church the Ascension is one of the 12 great feasts.  The date of the celebration is established from the date of Easter in the Orthodox calendar.  It is known both with the Greek word ἀνάληψις Análēpsis (to ascend) and with ἐπισωζομένη Episozomene (salvation). The latter term emphasises that Jesus ascending to heaven completed the work of redemption. The Acts, which explicitly mention the Mount of Olives, are clearer still, since after the ascension the disciples “Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount that is called Olivet, which is nigh Jerusalem, within a sabbath day’s journey.” (Acts 1:12) Tradition has consecrated this place as the Mount of Ascension.


According to a spontaneous and universal conception, recognised by the Bible, God  lives in a higher place and man to meet him must rise, rise. The idea of ​​rapprochement with God is spontaneously given by the mountain and in Exodus 19.; Moses is transmitted the prohibition to ascend to Mount Sinai, which implied above all this approach to the Lord; “And Moses said to the Lord: The people cannot come up to mount Sinai: for thou did charge, and command, saying: Set limits about the mount, and sanctify it. “And the Lord said to him: Go, get thee down: and thou shalt come up, thou and Aaron with thee: but let not the priests and the people pass the limits, nor come up to the Lord, lest he kill them”. The command of Yahweh does not refer so much to a local ascent, but to a spiritual approach; one must first purify oneself and gather oneself in order to be able to hear his voice. Not only does God dwell in high places, but he has chosen the high places to establish his dwelling there; also to go to his shrines it is necessary to ‘go up’. So along the whole of the Bible, the references to “going up” are many and continuous and when Jerusalem takes the place of the ancient shrines, the crowds of pilgrims ‘ascend the holy mountain’; “Ascending” to Jerusalem meant going to Yahweh, and the term, beholden by a real geographical position, was used both by popular symbology for those who entered the promised land, as for those who ‘ascended’ to the holy city. In the New Testament, Jesus himself “ascends” to Jerusalem with his parents, when he meets with the doctors in the Temple and still “rises” to the holy city, as a prelude to “elevation” on the cross and to the glorious Ascension.


The Ascension Ædicule

The Books of the New Testament contain sporadic references to the mystery of the Ascension; the Gospels of Matthew and John do not speak of it and both end with the account of apparitions after the Resurrection.  Mark ends by saying: “And the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God.” (Mark 16:19); Luke speaks instead of it: “And he led them out as far as Bethania: and lifting up his hands, he blessed them.  And it came to pass, whilst he blessed them, he departed from them, and was carried up to heaven.”(Luke 24:50-51). Still Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, ascribed to him as an author from the earliest times, to the initial chapter (Acts 1:11), places the Ascension on the Mount of Olives, on the 40th day after Easter and adds: “And when he had said these things, while they looked on, he was raised up: and a cloud received him out of their sight.  And while they were beholding him going up to heaven, behold two men stood by them in white garments.  Who also said: Ye men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to heaven? This Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, as you have seen him going into heaven.”  (Acts 1:9-11). The other authors hint only occasionally to the fact or presuppose it, the same s. Paul, although he knows the relationship between the Resurrection and the glorification, does not pose the problem of how Jesus entered the celestial world and was transfigured; in fact in the various letters he does not mention the passage from the terrestrial to the celestial phase. But they reiterate the enthronement of Christ to the right hand of the Father, where he will remain until the end of the centuries, cloaked in power and glory; “Therefore, if you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above; where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God:  Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth.  For you are dead; and your life is hid with Christ in God“. (Colossians 3:1-3)


Luke, the third evangelist, in the Acts of the Apostles specifies that Jesus after his passion, showed himself to the eleven remaining apostles, with many trials, appearing to them for forty days and speaking of the Kingdom of God; it must be said that the number of ‘forty days’ is full of symbolism, which often occurs in the events of the wandering Jewish people, but also with Jesus, who fasted in the desert for 40 days.  St. Paul in the same ‘Acts’ (Acts 13:31) states that the Lord “Who was seen for many days, by them who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who to this present are his witnesses to the people”, without specifying the number, so it must be a reliable hypothesis, that it is a symbolic number.  The Ascension according to Luke, occurred on the Mount of Olives, when Jesus with the Apostles to whom he had appeared, went towards Bethany, after having repeated his promises and invoked upon them protection and divine assistance, and rising towards the heaven as described above (Acts, 1-11). Mount Oliveto, from which Jesus ascended to Heaven, was embellished by St. Helena, mother of the emperor Constantine the Great with a beautiful basilica towards the end of the fourth century, Church of Eleona, sites of Christ’s birth and ascension, respectively; the rich matron and pilgrim Poemenia built another large basilica, rich in mosaics and precious marbles, on the type of the Pantheon in Rome, in the precise place of the Ascension marked in the center by a small roundabout. Then in the alternating instability that saw Muslims and Christians, Arabs and Crusaders over the centuries, the basilicas were unfortunately destroyed; in 1920-27 by vote of the Catholic world, the remnants of the excavations are used to construct a most grandiose temple, and dedicated to the Sacred Heart, while the round aedicule church of Poemenia became a small octagonal mosque from the 16th century onwards.


Saint John in the fourth Gospel, places the triumph of Christ in his completeness in the Resurrection, after all the other evangelists had given little importance to the Ascension, confirm that the true ascension, that is the transfiguration and the passage of Jesus into the world of glory, happened on Easter morning, an event that escaped every experience and out of human control. Correcting an ample pervasive mentality, the Gospel texts seeks to place the ascension and enthronement of Jesus on the right of the Father, on the very day of His death, He then returned from Heaven to manifest Himself to His own and completes His instruction for a period of ‘forty‘ days.  Therefore the Ascension narratives by Luke, Mark and the Acts of the Apostles does not in fact refer to the Saviour’s first entry into glory, but rather to His last apparition and departure which concludes His visible manifestations upon earth.  Consequently, the intent of the accounts of the Ascension is not to describe a real return to the Father, but to make known some of the characteristics of the last manifestation of Jesus, a manifestation of farewell, necessary? yes! because He must return to the Father to complete the Redemption of all: “But I told you not these things from the beginning, because I was with you. And now I go to him that sent me, and none of you asketh me: Whither goest thou?  But because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow hath filled your heart.  But I tell you the truth: it is expedient to you that I go: for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16: 5-7). The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 659) gives Ascension this definition: “But during the forty days when he eats and drinks familiarly with his disciples and teaches them about the kingdom, his glory remains veiled under the appearance of ordinary humanity, “Jesus’ final apparition ends with the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where he is seated from that time forward at God’s right hand. He is the Lord, who now reigns with his humanity in the eternal glory of the Son of God and ceaselessly intercedes in our favor with the Father. He sends us his Spirit and gives us the hope of reaching him one day, having prepared a place for us “


The first testimony of the Feast of the Ascension is given by the historian of the origins of the Church, the bishop of Caesarea, Eusebius (265-340); the feast falling on the Thursday following the fifth Sunday after Easter, is a movable feast and in some Catholic nations it is a Holy day of obligation, recognised in some secular calendars.  In Italy, in agreement with the Italian State, which required a reform of the holidays, eliminating some festive

Lo sposalizio del mare
Sposalizio del Mare Venice, Italy.

bridges, the Italian Episcopal Conference fixed the liturgical and secular service, on the Sunday following the canons to 40 days after Easter.  In the Ambrosian Rite, however, it is celebrated on Thursdays.  On Ascension Day there are many popular Italian festivals in which many ancient traditions are re-enacted, linked to therapeutic values, which would be conferred by a divine blessing to the waters.  In Venice there was a great fair, accompanied by the “Sposalizio del Mare“, the Marriage of the Sea, a ceremony in which the Doge aboard

H.E Gregorios, Archbishop of Thyateira & Great Britain,  Blessing of the Sea

the “Bucintoro“, threw a gold ring in the waters of the Venetian lagoon, to symbolise the Venetians dominion over the sea; some 8 miles away from St. Mary’s Hermitage in a town called Margate (UK) the Greek Orthodox Church and Greek and Cypriot Community of the Archangel Michael re-enact the blessing of the sea waters every year, in Florence the “Festa del grillo” is celebrated. (This link opens a Youtube video of the Festa del Grillo).


The story of the Scriptures and the liturgical celebration of this mystery can be found in miniatures of famous codices, among them the Syrian Gospels of Rabula in the

Ascension. The Rabbula Gospel – Biblioteca Mediciae Laurenziana.  Florence

Biblioteca Laurenziana of Florence, and in mosaics and ivories from the 5th century.  The theme of the Ascension, adapted well to the vertical rhythm of the tympanum, above the gates of the Romanesque and Gothic churches; an example is the gable of the northern door of the cathedral of Chartres (12th century). But the representation reached remarkable artistic value with Giotto (1266-1337) who portrayed the Ascension in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. We also remember a fresco by Buffalmacco (13th century) in the Camposanto of Pisa; a terracotta by Luca Della Robbia (1400-1482) in the National Museum of Florence; a fresco by Maestro Melozzo da Forlì († 1494) now in the Palazzo del Quirinale in Rome; a Tempera on panel by Mantegna (1431-1506) in Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi; the Sansepolcro Altarpiece by Perugino († 1523) now in the Museum of Lyon; the famous fresco

Norther door Tympanum cathedral of Chartres

by Correggio († 1534) in the dome of the Church of S. Giovanni in Parma called the Vision of St John Evangelist on Patmos, Ascension of Christ among Apostles; the fresco by Tintoretto (d. 1594) in the Scuola di S. Rocco in Venice. In a treasure chest of the Duomo of Monza, Christ ascends into heaven,

Treasure Chest depicting the Ascension of Christ. Cathedral of Monza

according to a typical oriental iconography, seated on the throne; in other representations He ascends to Heaven among a crowd of Angels, in front of the ecstatic looks of the Apostles and of the Virgin.

Sia Lodato Gesù Cristo – Sempre Sia Lodato

Sia Lodato Gesù Cristo – Sempre Sia Lodato

Dal sorgere del sole al suo tramonto sia lodato il nome del Signore

Deus Tecum cari fratelli e sorelle,

Con questa acclamazione di fede, fino agli anni Cinquanta del secolo scorso, i cristiani erano esortati a salutare il sacerdote lungo la strada. Non si tratta di un’acclamazione liturgica. I predicatori erano soliti pronunciare questo saluto prima e dopo ogni loro intervento in qualsiasi circostanza. Era e resta ancora un’acclamazione per evidenziare che le nostre parole non devono servire alla nostra gloria ma a quella del Signore.

Di recente ho letto un blog dal titolo “Sia lodato Gesu Cristo – Perche?” dove lo scrittore propone che, poiché la chiesa cattolica non è l’unico esponente delle virtù … Basta dire in questo mondo secolarizzato che non ha tempo per la preghiera. “Devo scappare. scusa “rispondono quando ci rivolgiamo al tema della religione. Poi abbiamo i cosiddetti “sacramentali soli cattolici” che si vedono solamente durante i battesimi, la prima comunione, la cresima, i matrimoni e i funerali. Non educano i loro bambini che hanno battezzato nella fede cattolica “voglio che mio figlio si decida quando è più grande” dice “e se volesse diventare un buddista quando sarà più grande?”. La scarpa si adatta anche ad alcuni dei miei confratelli del clero e dell’episcopato. Un sacerdote collega nel Devon una volta mi ha chiesto perché sei diventato un prete te? Questo mi ha sorpreso e naturalmente ho risposto che “ben pregavo per la guida del nostro Signore e con l’aiuto dello spirito santo mi dirigevo verso il sacerdozio”. “Wow! voi italiani e i latini siete davvero dentro per quella roba” ha dichiarato “appena dopo il college mio padre voleva mandarmi nell’esercito a meno che non andassi all’università. Così sono andato a Oxford, ho scelto il tema più multidisciplinare, che all’epoca era teologia. quando mi sono laureato, mio ​​zio vescovo, mi ha offerto un lavoro e mi ha ordinato. allora eccoci qua”. Questo è dove Io ho esclamato “WOW”. Poi ho avuto un vescovo diocesano in Irlanda che non credeva nemmeno in Dio. Ma questo è un intero altro blog.

quindi qui siamo al punto cruciale della questione. la chiesa stessa sta diventando secolarizzata. Ma di nuovo questo è un argomento che forse affronteremo possibilmente nel futuro.

La mia campagna se possiamo chiamarla così, è che lodiamo il nostro Signore e Salvatore almeno una volta al giorno, non mi aspetterei di sfidare un laico a seguire il nostro esempio di “Sette volte al giorno io ti lodo, per le sentenze della tua giustizia.” [Salmo 119:164].

Ma vorrei con il vostro aiuto lanciare una sfida quaresimale per dire “Sia lodato Gesù Cristo – Semper sia Lodato” ad almeno un estraneo ogni giorno durante la quaresima. Che bel modo di salutare qualcuno se non nel nome del nostro Salvatore. Non pensi?

Che il Signore vi benedica e vi mantenga sempre.

in Gesù e Maria

dom. ugo maria